“I love you.” Sweeter words were never uttered yet these three words convey different types of love. There’s philia – brotherly love, eros – romantic love, and storgé – familial love. If you have experienced love, you are blessed. Some haven’t experienced any of these forms of love.
They may have been abandoned at birth and bounced from foster home to foster home; they may have been born into wealth but their parents never showed any interest in them, or they may have been treated as someone’s castaway and are all too familiar with the feeling of being unloved, unwanted and unnecessary.
Agápē love is life-changing: it’s perfect, unconditional, sacrificial, and pure.
It leads to unexpected grace, benevolent mercy, and acceptance. It feels like being restored, being made whole or coming home and finding the part of you, the God-shaped void that was missing.
When you have lacked love, it is a relief to be the beneficiary of God’s love. This is the most important “I love you!” This is agápē love.
When love is void, it’s a relief to finally receive it, but even if you are familiar with love, agápē love is mind-blowing.
The night before Jesus was crucified He provided a new commandment–a mandate: that we love one another as He had loved us. (John 13:34).
He had a heart for the hurting, the downtrodden, the misguided, and the marginalized. He was not self-serving but invaluable to those he ministered to through agape love:
To Nicodemus, he said, “You must be born again.”
To the woman at the well, “I am the living water; if you drink of me, you shall never thirst again.”
To the centurion, “I have never seen such great faith.”
On his first visit as Martha was preparing for her guests, probably trying to keep everything straight in her mind, she looks to Jesus for validation of her plight. But Jesus said “Martha, Martha you are distracted by many things.”
Because of our fallen nature, we are incapable of producing such love. If we are to love as God loves, that love—that agápē love can only come from its Source.
Agápē “has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” when we became His children (Romans 5:5; cf. Galatians 5:22).
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters” (1 John 3:16). We have this love for all men including our enemies (Matthew 5:44).
Nah, this type of love is not easy at all for this love is borne out in relationships. Relying on his Holy Spirit, the Comforter bolsters us for the initial discomfort we may have when demonstrating this love.
Consider the practical guidelines in 1 Corinthians 13. We see that love is patient and kind; does not envy or boast; is not proud, does not hold grudges, holds others in high regard; does not delight in evil and values the truth. It always protects, always trusts always hopes, and always perseveres. Love never fails. This love is overwhelming yet if we embody this love, it will change us. This love is Jesus filling in the gaps and smooths our rough edges.
Yet we fail… We become conditional in our love. We love others when times are good and question when times become difficult.
We’re willing to go the extra mile for someone we like but falter when a person isn’t our “cup of tea.”
We dismiss the homeless, step over them, but bend over backward to meet a need because of someone’s title. In instances like this, I am reminded of a father’s love for his prodigal child.
We are recipients of great love, but we take it for granted. We throw it in our father’s face. We do things our way. Ah, but then we come to our senses and return home, and our father welcomes us with open arms. Our father forgives and says “welcome home.”
The love of the father changes the child and like that child it changes us.
We can’t demonstrate agápē love in our own strength,
but when we love as Christ loves, the world will know agápē love.
When we act out this love it won’t be self-serving or calculated but a genuine outpouring of what we received.
We’ll become invaluable to those we minister to. It will be sacrificial.
We’ll be like the early disciples who turned the world upside down because they were recipients of God’s great love.
Agápē love is not optional; rather we are called to be people who love. It is a new commandment with a new standard, a new relationship, and a new outcome. Through agápē love, we truly make an impact in this world.